The Clown at Midnight

Director: Jean Pellerin

Canada - 1998

    Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!

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Wow! This movie was just like Scream!

A hot teen ensemble cast!

Thrills and chills!

A cutting-edgeKennedy finally gets some work after MTV alternative soundtrack!

Difference being, this movie was crap!

Well, I actually thought Scream was pretty crappy too, but I digress.

What attracted me to The Clown at Midnight was the cast. Well, not the entire cast - just Margot Kidder. I had recently caught Superman II on cable one Sunday afternoon, and between thoughts of "How can I be enjoying something as thoroughly hokey as this?" I pondered: "Say, what has Margot Kidder been up to nowadays?" Now, I vaguely recalled hearing about her having something to the effect of a nervous breakdown recently - which is none of my business - but what I specifically wondered that fine Sunday afternoon was when, if ever, Ms. Kidder might delve back into film again. Ironically, only a few days later, while rummaging through the New Release wall at Blockbuster, fate stepped in and turned my attention towards this...uh...epic. After actually viewing The Clown at Midnight, however, I realized that fate sometimes had a way of sticking it to you.

It's a shame really, the beginning held such promise.

We start in the past, after the final performance of Pagliacci, a tragedy concerning a lovesick clown. (Perhaps Pagliacci was the inspiration for all those velvet portraits of crying clowns. Yup, besides Elvis, Bruce Lee anA genetic mutation of Lou Diamond Phillips and Wayne Newtond Jesus, crying clowns are a hot commodity in the world of velvet paintings.) The star of the show, Lorraine Sedgewick, is in her dressing room getting funky with her beau. After the deed is done and the gentleman has left the premises (get it and go -just like a man! Hrmph!), Lorraine receives a letter from one of her fellow actors proclaiming his love for her, and something to the effect that if he can't have her, no one will. Almost immediately thereafter, the letter’s author, dressed as the sad Pagliacci, bursts forth from Lorraine’s closet and kills her.

And now it’s the present. Lorraine's daughter, Kate, is a college student majoring in - you guessed it - theater. The opera house which hosted Pagliacci has been shut down for years, but the theater group of Kate's school has taken it upon themselves to restore the historic venue as a summer project. Kate's best friend, Monica, talks her into joining said project. And why not? Do something with your summer, girl! Long gone are the days of sitting around the house, wasting space and watching reruns of CHiPs. Get out! Take some initiative! Do something constructive! Stir up som"Say, isn't that Tootie?"e horrific memories of your mother's death! It'll be fun!

So Kate, Monica, and a rag-tag group of stereotypical college students - along with their teacher, Mrs. Gibby (Kidder) - head out to the decrepit theater, roll up their sleeves, and put their noses to the grindstone.

Now, when I say stereotypical college students, we’re talking an unwholesome conglomeration of The Breakfast Club and The Real World. Our group includes the requisite jock, the princess, the homosexual (flamboyant as the day is long, naturally), the geek, the freak and Kate as a Neve Campbell clone.

I would like to say that the creative thrust of the film is concentrated in the story, but the key word here is LIKE. The plot, after a promising beginning, becomes typical slasher fare. Teens separate from the group, teens get knocked off. Teens fornicate, teens get knocked off. So basically, teens get knocked off.

The only saving grace of The Clown at Midnight is some surreal scenes featuring the maniac clown. But come on now, a clown, at least to me, is a cheap ploy for thrills. Almost anything involving a clown will seem somewhat strange. Once I had a friend of mine, while reading a book of hypothetical questions, ask, "Would you answer a knock at your door at midnight if you looked through the peephole and saw a clown staring back?" And then the follow-up: "What if the clown was crying?"

I have no idea where I'm going with this.

Back to the film. I kinda like Margot Kidder. She"Sorry, I don't see Superman coming to save you from this one." doesn't strike me as the ultimate thespian, but she's not too shabby, either. Perhaps this mild admiration stems from the nostalgia of growing up with the Superman films; or maybe it comes from her inspired performance in De Palma's Sisters. At any rate, I sincerely hope Ms. Kidder chooses a bit more wisely in terms of her future acting endeavors. It's a damn shame when people are reduced to this dreck.

So, If you have a hankerin’ for a good clown movie (and really, who doesn't appreciate a good clown film?), then by all means, see Clownhouse. It's a tad uneven, but eons better.

Oh, and do not see Terror on Tour.

 

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-- Copyright 2000 by J. Bannerman

 

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